By J. Taylor Rushing - 07/30/09 01:17 PM EDT
Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidObama’s November surprise This week: Shutdown deadline looms over Congress Week ahead: Spending fight shifts from Zika to Flint MORE (D-Nev.), Majority Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinSpending bill doesn't include Cruz internet fight Overnight Tech: GOP says internet fight isn't over | EU chief defends Apple tax ruling | Feds roll out self-driving car guidelines | Netflix's China worries Reid blasts Cruz over internet fight MORE (D-Ill.), Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles SchumerCharles SchumerSaudis hire lobbyists amid 9/11 fight Consumer bureau remains partisan target after Wells Fargo settlement Overnight Healthcare: Planned Parenthood deal in sight in Senate | A new 'public option' push MORE (D-N.Y.) and Conference Secretary Patty MurrayPatty MurrayDems call for better birth control access for female troops US wins aerospace subsidies trade case over the EU Senate Dems unveil new public option push for ObamaCare MORE (D-Wash.) also acknowledged that critics will "pour it on" during the coming August recess and they plan to respond in kind.
“That is a deadline that you created,” Reid told a group of about 75 reporters. “It’s not like we don’t have a product. Significant progress has been made … The mere fact that this wasn't done by last Friday or by five o’clock doesn't mean we’re not going to get a quality product."
Sens. Michael Enzi (Wyo.), ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyClinton, Trump tied in Iowa, Grassley leads in Senate race Senate rivals gear up for debates Grassley pulling away from Dem challenger MORE (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, took stances Thursday against supporting any healthcare bill before the August recess — a move Reid blamed on Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellSenate to vote on 9/11 veto override Wednesday Conservative group presses GOP to vote against spending bill Top Armed Services Dem lobbies against 9/11 bill MORE (R-Ky.).
“The only problem with getting a bipartisan bill is the Republican leadership in the Senate,” Reid said.
Saying the current medical system is "chronically ill," Durbin took aim at the insurance lobby, which he said will “pour it on” during August.
“There are people out there with a lot of money at stake in this debate,” Durbin said. “The health insurance companies are some of the most profitable businesses in America. By fighting change they're protecting their bottom line.”
The Senate's drive toward health reform accelerated in June with a bill passed by the HELP Committee, but it stalled this month in the Finance Committee. Schumer gave an upbeat progress report on the Finance Committee negotiations, saying "real progress" is being made and that Democrats will promote it strongly during the monthlong break.
The Democratic leaders also used endorsements from seven physician lobbies to continue their promotional push Thursday, appearing with Jim King of the American Academy of Family Physicians and Joe Stubbs of the American College of Physicians.
"They understand we cannot maintain the status quo," Reid said of the doctors. "Our healthcare system is not healthy."
"We are too close to stop now," he said, describing the current system as "fragmented, uncoordinated and duplicative."
Stubbs, an internist from Albany, Ga., and president of the college physicians group, said patients are at a disadvantage against insurers under current rules.
"We can and should debate these changes," he said. "But debate must not be the excuse for delay."
Five other medical groups also sent representatives to Thursday's press conference — the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Osteopathic Association, the American Medical Student Association, Doctors for America and the National Physicians Alliance.
The American Medical Association is also supporting the Democratic efforts, but did not send a representative to Thursday's press conference.